The New Year’s Change

The New Year’s Change

...change...

I have since been brought into a way of living infinitely more satisfying and, I hope, more useful than the life I lived before. My old manner of life was by no means a bad one, but I would not exchange its best moments for the worst I have now. I would not go back to it even if I could.”  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 4243)

A new “way of living” is central to any idea of recovery.  If you stay the same, act the same and think the same you will end up with the same results.  If you do not change, you are the same and will end up getting the same results.

Here is the math:

THE SAME   =  THE SAME RESULTS

DIFFERENT   =  DIFFERENT RESULTS

Any hope of recovery must include an acceptance of the fact that you need to be okay with the idea of being an entirely different person to get different results.

This is a great time to look at this concept.  We have just passed through New Years after surviving the Mayan Apocalypse and those of us in the United States having survived a quick tumble over something called a ‘fiscal cliff” and here we are.

With the New Year, many cultures have the custom of making new resolutions, commitments or changes for the next year and for those of us in recovery this can be used as an important part of our recovery process as change is recovery.

Some changes may be simple commitments:  A person who has been in recovery circles and never seriously worked Steps may commit to actually working the Steps this year and find two or three people to ensure that happens.  Some people might have that one or two things that they have excluded from discussing when working their steps previously, such individuals might commit to working on those things this year (and call a couple of people you could meet with today and start discussing those things withor you won’t really do it).  Some, who may have never done so before, might commit to sponsoring others this year and contact two or three others who are good sponsors to walk them through the process.

The ideas are endless.  Now that I have you pondering this idea, let’s slow down and look at some of the changes founding member Bill W. did when he got started:

My wife and I abandoned ourselves with enthusiasm to the idea of helping other alcoholics to a solution of their problems. It was fortunate, for my old business associates remained skeptical for a year and a half, during which I found little work. I was not too well at the time, and was plagued by waves of self-pity and resentment. This sometimes nearly drove me back to drink, but I soon found that when all other measures failed, work with another alcoholic would save the day. Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 15)

I use this passage because this brief summary gives both the good and the bad of this commitment to changing.  There were some negative results of his using that didn’t magically disappear with abstinence from using.

Bill W. was sober and helping others be sober (as well as starting Alcoholics Anonymous) and working recovery yet the world around him was far slower in the process of accepting his sobriety which meant during this whole period of sobriety he couldn’t find any work.

This is important, because many of us in recovery start changing and then get frustrated by the fact that people around us treat us like the scum of the earth or like the village idiot no matter how much we change.  Some of us get so frustrated that we just give up feeling that it doesn’t matter:  “No matter what I do my life is not going to get better” etc.

Let me help all of us with a fact:  YOU CAN ONLY CHANGE “YOU”.  YOU CANNOT CHANGE OTHER PEOPLE!  The changes that you are making start with “changing you” and the damage each one of us has done to the world around us is not in as big of a hurry to change as we need to be.  No matter what is going on around us, we have to still do the changing.

It is not a matter of if there will be problems, frustration and discomfort, it is a matter of how well you push through when the problems, frustrations and discomforts come up that is key to your recovery.  If your efforts to change cannot overcome these times, then your recovery can only work in times when there are no problems, no frustrations and no discomforts.  In other words, your recovery will not work.

There will be problems and a big part of the change is continuing to change and maintaining the changes that you have made already through the worst of times.

A big part of the changing that Bill W. did was working with others.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics.  It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Working with others is tied to his being able to hold on through these first tough times.  This is not an option, this is a must for all people working something that you are claiming is a Twelve Step program.

For any Twelve Step program, working with others who are struggling with what you are struggling with is central to making the whole thing work.  Not just working with other however; “intensively” working with others like yourself.

In the case of Bill W. on page 15 of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, he went searching for people to work with.

I am astonished, by the amount of people desperately seeking to have the sponsees come to them.  Understanding that “intensively” working with other people is at the core of any hope you have of changing and staying sober, waiting for sponsees to come to you is like sitting around waiting for recovery to just happen to you.  As if there is some recovery fairy that will magically show up, wave the magic recovery wand, sprinkle the magic recovery dust on you and all will be fixed.

Recovery is something you struggle desperately to get and so are those you work with:

Helping others is the foundation stone of your recovery. A kindly act once in a while isn’t enough. You have to act the Good Samaritan every day, if need be. It may mean the loss of many nights’ sleep, great interference with your pleasures, interruptions to your business. It may mean sharing your money and your home, counseling frantic wives and relatives, innumerable trips to police courts, sanitariums, hospitals, jails and asylums. Your telephone may jangle at any time of the day or night. Your wife may sometimes say she is neglected. A drunk may smash the furniture in your home, or burn a mattress. You may have to fight with him if he is violent. Sometimes you will have to call a doctor and administer sedatives under his direction. Another time you may have to send for the police or an ambulance. Occasionally you will have to meet such conditions.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 97)

I am not promising you some easy time of magically changing as you plod along each day playing recovery in some meeting or other.  I am bluntly saying that change is hard work particularly in the hard times including in the key area of working with others.  FACTS ARE FACTS AND THAT’S THAT.

What I am hopefully doing is properly preparing you for the cost of changing and showing you a truthful view of what the honest hope of sobriety costs.

The good news about complete change is that what makes you happy will change also which means you will be made happy by things that right now you cannot imagine would make you happy.

Many times I have gone to my old hospital in despair. On talking to a man there, I would be amazingly lifted up and set on my feet. It is a design for living that works in rough going.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 15)

If you do this long enough as intensively as you can eventually it will be the thing which lifts you up and keeps you on your feet.  It will be your joy and stability in the storms of life as well as in the quiet times of life.

Getting back to the point; as each of us begins on the path of walking through a new year, let’s all set a new course for change.  I put these ideas out there to contemplate as each one of us process what that might mean.

Make a plan for what you are going to do on the path to change this year, involve others (people with good sense and strong enough to confront you if you are not following through) in keeping you on course and accountable to your commitments, and start on the whole thing before you close your eyes to go to sleep tonight.

In conclusion, I wish you a Happy New Year.  Not in the sense that I expect that magic fairy dust will fall on you and joy will miraculously fall upon you (that is called being high and never really ends well).  What I mean in “Happy New Year” is:  May the efforts you are putting into finding change and the joy of sobriety be rewarded with a joy you have never known before and may that joy be passed through you into the lives of many, many others you encounter.

We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 8384)

Stay Sober My Friends;

Wade H.

The New Year’s Change

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Holiday Gatherings: Explain or Avoid

Holiday Gatherings:  Explain or Avoid

Why sit with a

Jazz band playing at New Years Day party, New ...
Jazz band playing at New Years Day party, New Orleans. Shown are Clive Wilson, trumpet; Tommy Sancton, clarinet; Seva Venet, guitar, and Lawrence Batiste, drum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

long face in places where there is drinking,

sighing about the good old days. If it is a happy occasion, try to increase the pleasure of those there; if a business occasion, go and attend to your business enthusiastically. If you are with a person who wants to eat in a bar, by all means go along. Let your friends know they are not to change their habits on your account. At a proper time and place explain to all your friends why alcohol disagrees with you. If you do this thoroughly, few people will ask you to drink.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 102)

This passage demonstrates an important point that we all need to keep in mind during the holiday season, all the way from Thanksgiving in the United States, to Hanukkah, Kwanza and so on all the way through New Years Day.  This concept is that we need to be open and truthful about our condition to others and to ourselves.

This passage applies to being around alcohol (assuming you are far enough along that you can be around it for periods of time without issue) and does not apply that the crack addict should spend Christmas at the local crack house, with a group of celebrating (yet nodding off) heroin addicts, or at a bar full of strangers trying to fight off the urge to relapse.

If there is a family gathering and a few people having a few glasses of wine with dinner, you may be able to handle the situation with the proper precautions in place.  On the other hand, if ten minutes into the gathering everyone breaks out the one hundred and ninety-five proof moonshine and begin passing the crack pipes it may not be a good idea to visit.  If you feel you need to go then a ten minute visit may be all you can do.

Either way, openness and honesty are a must!  Not only in terms of appropriately telling the friends, family and others you will be with.  This means being open and honest enough to ensure that a couple of people that will be in attendance are enlisted to watch you and make sure you do not use.

If you are of the impression that feeling like you wont use or that having been abstinent for some amount of time guarantees you will remain abstinent, you might not be ready for these kinds of gatherings.   If you think you will be safe if you use just a little bit and stop:  PLEASE DO NOT GO, YOU ARE IN GRAVE DANGER IF YOU DO.

The bottom line is that you are either abstaining or not, you are either sober or not, you are either in recovery or not.  If you are planning to drink or use some other possibly intoxicating substance you have simply planned your relapsed and somehow convinced yourself that doing the same thing you and others have done before which ended in misery will somehow end differently this time.

Think of yourself as a person making the decision on holiday gatherings like a person who cannot swim being invited on a small boat.  It is dangerous, but can be managed.

  • If the person is sensible, wears a life-jacket, and makes sure there are others aboard the boat that can swim well enough to save him/her and are informed of the fact he/she cannot swim, it should be okay.
  • If this person not only cannot swim, but keeps jumping in the water when nobody is looking to the point of having almost drowned several times before, then the boat trip is probably an incredibly horrible idea.  Especially if the person says that he/she plans on jumping in for a swim again this trip:  “but, only a little one.”
  • If the person goes on the trip, but nobody on the boat knows that he/she cannot swim then why would anyone think it important that this person is not wearing a life-jacket and is sitting on the rails at the back of the boat?
  • If the person is invited aboard small boat in incredibly rough waters where everyone must work on the deck through the storm, it is probably too dangerous for a person who cannot swim and will probably cause more problems for everyone else by being there.

I’m sure many of us get the symbolism here, but for those who don’t.  The sensible person is the person who let’s everyone know and takes precautions like staying away from drinking games, beer runs etc.

The person who will keep telling himself/herself that it will be okay to swim when nobody’s looking even though it is ridiculous in light of past experiences is the person who feels the same way about using just a little.  That person is an unnecessary risk just by thinking about drinking or using, much less by being around it.

The person who goes on the boat, yet tells nobody and doesn’t use a life-jacket is the person who goes to gatherings, but is afraid or uncomfortable telling anyone about his/her alcoholism/addiction.  That person puts himself/herself in undue risk that could be easily eliminated by just being open to others and really to himself/herself.

The people inviting the person who cannot swim to a small boat in incredibly dangerous waters are like the friends and family that use and abuse alcohol/drugs that are inviting you to party with them.  That kind of gathering is the kind of gathering that should probably be avoided at all costs.  There is way too much at risk and way to little to gain to make the whole thing worth while.  If you have to go to this boat stay on the shore and see them off.  In other words say your hello’s and then when the alcohol, pipes and needles come out say your goodbye’s.

The bottom line is that it is possible to go to gatherings if you are far enough into your recovery, if you take the right precautions and if you are open and honest with others and yourself.

To truly know if you are ready for this in any particular situation you will need to consult your sponsor, your, counselor or clinician, members of your recovery support community, your friends and family etc.  But, do not just trust your own judgment as our own judgment as alcoholics/addicts has show the possibility of breaking down (or just not working at all in some cases).

So our rule is not to avoid a place where there is drinking, if we have a legitimate reason for being there. That includes bars, nightclubs, dances, receptions, weddings, even plain ordinary whoopee parties. To a person who has had experience with an alcoholic, this may seem like tempting Providence, but it isn’t.

You will note that we made an important qualification. Therefore, ask yourself on each occasion, “Have I any good social, business, or personal reason for going to this place? Or am I expecting to steal a little vicarious pleasure from the atmosphere of such places?” If you answer these questions satisfactorily, you need have no apprehension. Go or stay away, whichever seems best. But be sure you are on solid spiritual ground before you start and that your motive in going is thoroughly good. Do not think of what you will get out of the occasion. Think of what you can bring to it. But if you are shaky, you had better work with another alcoholic instead!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs. 101 – 102)

An important final note from this passage:  If you are in recovery or were at some point in your life an alcoholic/addict then you cannot afford to go to a gathering to just think of having fun, because this is not really the proper venue for your fun.  Don’t get me wrong there will be fun at such an event for you, but a part of the focus has to be how you can be helpful to others.

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Established on such a footing we became less and less interested in ourselves, our little plans and designs. More and more we became interested in seeing what we could contribute to life.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 63)

Don’t only look at what you can take out the gathering but also focus on what you can contribute to the lives there and how that can best be done.  The counterintuitive part is that if you do this (once you get used to it) you will, in most cases actually find the gatherings more enjoyable.  More important, you will be more likely to keep your sobriety intact.

Stay sober my friends,

Wade H.

How to Survive The Holidays Pt 4 – Ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

How to Survive The Holidays Pt 4 – Ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Whatever our protestations, are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity?

Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 62)

Many people have all kinds of things to say about things that are important to recovery, yet this extremely important point is often missed.  All of us using at these heavy levels are concerned with “ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity.” 

This is one of the most key messages that we all need in recovery, yet is the one people ignore the most.  Here is the problem; there are few times throughout the year as tempting to a person overly concerned with “ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity” as the Christmas holiday.

If a person is selfish and self-centered in the most traditional sense of the words that person will be completely focused on what others give to him or her.  If that is your focus there can only be a tremendous let down.

If a person is more of a self-pity type, that person may be a codependent who is obsessed with getting others stuff for Christmas and find himself or herself depressed at the inability to get purchase the happiness or appreciation of others.  This is a person who will believe himself or herself to be as unselfish as you can be with the obsession for doing things for others when in fact there is something that person is looking for in return for the gifts and services rendered etc. 

If a person is seething with resentments or in bondage to the hurts of others from the past, then the family gatherings and Merry Christmas stuff from the very same folks you are uncomfortable with (openly or secretly resentful towards) are the recipe for inner turmoil and torment.  This person may not have any problems with the gifts received or given as there may be neither to worry about.

Before going any further into this, it is important to remember just because you feel something that does not mean it is true or sensible.  Some of the things you feel may just be a part of your being an addict or alcoholic. 

If the root source of all things Twelve Step states that “the root of our troubles” is “selfishness – Self-centeredness” then it is probable that as an addict or alcoholic everything you feel may be filtered through an exaggerated focus on yourself.   That also means that one of the main focuses of everything in the Twelve Steps is to overcome this “root of our troubles.”

Wherever you are in working your steps, you may not overcome this struggle prior to Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  A good place to start is by first recognizing that the problem may be simply a problem of your perspective and not one dealing with the reality of the situation or situations.

A problem so big that it is described as “the root” of your problems is not the kind of thing that you can read a cure in a two or three page blog posting:  But, the steps were originally written as a cure for this root struggle.  I understand that each of us may be in different places in our recoveries, but before you even consider dealing with the whole Christmas thing, this is an excellent time to greatly increase your efforts in your recovery.  Do more of and more quality recovery activities.  From Steps to meetings with your sponsor and other mentors to general recovery meeting attendance increase the amount and quality during the holiday season.  Get some strong people in place that you can meet with regularly to reality test your thoughts (because we cannot trust our own interpretations). 

We avoid retaliation or argument. We wouldn’t treat sick people that way. If we do, we destroy our chance of being helpful.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 67)

In an extremely simplified most basic sense retaliation and argument are not options for us.  We are not ready to judge what to respond to with our distorted understanding of events.  We must focus on how to be helpful to those people we feel these kind of feelings for and not expect any appreciation or acknowledgement from these people.  I understand that this is easier said than done, but in considering that Christmas is this week it is the best way to go. 

Make this Christmas be about making the holidays better with you around than it would have been without you around and have no expectation of appreciation or acknowledgement.  Do it only as part of your recovery and as part of staying healthy.

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics! You can help when no one else can. You can secure their confidence when others fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 89)

One more thing… 

Find someone else who is struggling like you and help that person.  The exact things that are going on with you and I during the holiday season will be going on with millions of addicts and alcoholics around the world for similar reasons.  Take the focus off of ourselves and devote some of your time to the service of someone else struggling with the same insanity that threatens us during this season.  Who better to talk to about these things than one of us who knows the same struggles?  You may not feel like you understand all of this all that well, but you may understand it a whole lot more than the next person and be extremely helpful to another person. 

And…

May you have the happiest and most sober Christmas you have had to date,

Wade H.

How To Survive The Holidays pt 3 – Action in the Way of Life

How To Survive The Holidays pt 3 – Action in the Way of Life

It is easy to let up on the spiritual program of action and rest on our laurels. We are headed for trouble if we do, for alcohol is a subtle foe.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 85)

One of the best ways to ensure your recovery survives the holidays with family, partying, Black Friday and Cyber Mondays, crowds, expectations and so on is to be proactive.  There are many reasons that can come up that might cause a person problems with his or her recovery, but the most dangerous are the subtle changes that we do not notice in time to respond to.  If you are waiting until you have a problem with your recovery to take action, you are resting on your laurels as described in this passage.  That means you are headed for trouble.

Let’s take a few minutes and look at one aspect of the subtlety of addiction and alcoholism before we go on with discussing what kind of action we are talking about.

They had said that though I did raise a defense, it would one day give way before some trivial reason for having a drink. Well, just that did happen and more, for what I had learned of alcoholism did not occur to me at all. I knew from that moment that I had an alcoholic mind. I saw that will power and self-knowledge would not help in those strange mental blank spots. I had never been able to understand people who said that a problem had them hopelessly defeated. I knew then. It was a crushing blow.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 42)

No matter how far you are along in recovery you are there is a fact that remains true of those that are the most severe addicts and alcoholics.  WE ARE POWERLESS!  If you have trouble with this concept and you are working a Twelve Step program, you are stuck.  You are stuck on Step One:

We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

Understanding this idea and responding correctly are incredibly important during this time of year.  A time of celebration for many, a time of incredible stress for many, a time of drinking and using for many, a time for great depression for some, and so on.   Few people go through the holiday season without some profound change of emotion, good or bad. 

If you are totally relying on yourself to remain sober through all that a person encounters, experiences, and feels during the holiday season, you are at terrible risk.  

So what is this “powerless” that the Twelve Step information describes?

The fact is that most alcoholics, for reasons yet obscure, have lost the power of choice in drink. Our so-called will power becomes practically nonexistent. We are unable, at certain times, to bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago. We are without defense against the first drink.

The almost certain consequences that follow taking even a glass of beer do not crowd into the mind to deter us. If these thoughts occur, they are hazy and readily supplanted with the old threadbare idea that this time we shall handle ourselves like other people. There is a complete failure of the kind of defense that keeps one from putting his hand on a hot stove.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 24)

The reason that I put both of these paragraphs here is because most people hearing the word “powerless” have an understanding that lines up with the first paragraph but that misses the ideas detailed in the second paragraph (as well as a few details in the first paragraph). 

Most people only think of “powerless” as “I cannot stop myself.”  With that limited understanding the next logical thought is that if “I cannot stop myself, then it is not my fault and it is useless to try to stop.”

Let’s look at that concept in detail:

In the first paragraph there are the words “at certain times”.  So whatever is going on here happens periodically and is not a constant.  The idea that; every time I get around someone that is using I just jump in and use, is not a part of the concept of powerlessness as described here.  As a matter of fact, what makes what the authors are describing here so sinister is the fact that it is something that only happens sometimes and you never know when it will happen. 

Think of having something electrical that has a short-circuit.  Whatever it is usually runs okay most of the time, but every once in a while the short-circuit takes over and cuts off the power and whatever it is stops working or has terrible problems.  This can happen with little or no warning and sometimes at the worst possible moments. 

The best example of a short-circuit that stands out in my mind is from a car I have that has a short-circuit in the headlights.  Every once in a long while I’ll be driving at night and the headlamps will just cut off.  When this happens, I just simply reach under the dashboard and jiggle the wires until the lights are on again. 

One night I was comfortably driving up the freeway minding my own business and then at the very same moment that I noticed a California Highway Patrol officer on the side of the freeway watching for speeders, my lights cut off.  I hurriedly reached under the dash to juggle the wires which then made the lights flash on and off until they finally went back to normal.  Could there have been worse timing?  

Without warning and in this case at the worst possible moment, the short-circuit took over.  This is how the “Strange Mental Blank-Spots” mentioned on page 42 are.  They happen without warning and can happen at the worst possible moment.  The biggest difference however is that most of the times that my car lights short out, very little happens and I can just jiggle the wires and move on.  When the strange mental blank spots happen there is usually a full blown relapse to follow.

Every once in a while there is a moment in our thoughts, emotions and resulting actions that will make it impossible to “bring into our consciousness with sufficient force the memory of the suffering and humiliation of even a week or a month ago.”  Bluntly put, there are moments that come up randomly, where our minds will not think about the reasons we shouldn’t use with enough force to keep us from using. 

Our sound reasoning failed to hold us in check. The insane idea won out. Next day we would ask ourselves, in all earnestness and sincerity, how it could have happened.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

You may be one of the most disciplined people on earth in other things and may think yourself out of using most of the time, but in the short-circuit moments (the “Strange Mental Blank Spots”) those thoughts will either be a distant whisper or will not come up at all. 

Why that is such a problem is that many people in recovery develop only one true defense system and don’t even know it.  That defense system is:  “If I think I am about to use, I will force myself to think about all the reasons I shouldn’t and that will keep me from using.” 

What makes the Strange mental Blank Spots so insidious is the fact that they allow such a defense system to work much of the time so the person gets the idea that the defense system he or she has built works great.  Then without warning it fails miserably and there is this relapse and in some cases there is no sensible reason for the relapse.

…there was little serious or effective thought during the period of premeditation of what the terrific consequences might be.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 37)

The truth behind the “powerless” idea described in the Twelve Step Information is that it describes a person whose ability to reason sometimes shorts out and at those moments does not have the power to stop the person from absolutely destroying himself or herself. 

Once more: The alcoholic at certain times has no effective mental defense against the first drink. Except in a few rare cases, neither he nor any other human being can provide such a defense. His defense must come from a Higher Power.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 43)

You may be new to recovery or you may have been in sobriety since well into the last century, but either way this is something that must be at the very foundation of all of your recovery and ultimately your whole life.  With the changes that transpire in the world around us and within each of us in our own lives during the holiday season it is time for a recovery foundation checkup. 

You may hate the words “Higher Power”, you may be working out the idea of a Higher Power, or you may believe you have the whole Higher Power thing all worked out, but it is time to make sure that your defense is founded on a Higher Power idea that will really works even when your brain doesn’t.  A good place to start is to rework the first three steps as you are heading into the holidays and rebuild your foundation as strong as it can be built.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol — that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 59)

Something else to do at this time is to go back to the basics.  Go to Twelve Step meetings.  Get together with a sponsor, with mentors, with others in recovery etc. regularly throughout the holiday season.  Be open and humble about your problems with those around you so that there is not confusion and discomfort if you chose to leave situations where everyone is drinking, using, or that are otherwise troubling to your recovery.  In other words the holidays are not a time for taking a break from recovery related activities.  ‘Tis the season to increase your recovery activities.

There is one activity I failed to mention that you hear me mention quite regularly…

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Who are you sponsoring and working through recovery.  If you need more recovery efforts during this holiday season, so do others in recovery.  If you are sponsoring someone, that person needs more focus on recovery and particularly the first three steps just like you do.  If you are not helping someone through recovery, now is the time to look.  Be proactive and look for solutions to the challenges to your sobriety before there is a problem (and teach your sponsees to do the same).  Don’t wait till you are desperate and barely holding on to decide to start trying these things. 

I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 8)

The things I have suggested here and many more things mentioned throughout the Twelve Step Materials are not magical activities that if done in a certain order will align the Rubiks Cube of recovery.  They are the elements of new way of living your life that creates the environment that allows you to remain sober.  The holidays are a time for us to focus or refocus on living the way of life that provides the wonderful gift of recovery as a byproduct of that new way of living.

My friend promised when these things were done I would enter upon a new relationship with my Creator; that I would have the elements of a way of living which answered all my problems.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 13)

Either you take action as part of your new way of living or you are resting on your laurels and heading for trouble.  

 

Seek the New Way of Living,

Wade H.

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

“The Watch Four” to Watch For!

This is not an overnight matter. It should continue for our lifetime. Continue to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. When these crop up, we ask God at once to remove them. We discuss them with someone immediately and make amends quickly if we have harmed anyone. Then we resolutely turn our thoughts to someone we can help. Love and tolerance of others is our code.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

This passage is an overview of the process we are to learn to do at Step 10, but this is actually a brief overview of the way we are supposed to live year to year, day to day and minute by minute.

There is a brief process listed here that could be more detailed or more complicated, but what is listed here does a great job of summarizing it.  These things are not to be relegated to just a process, but are supposed to gradually become the way you live.

This passage lists a process; the process is just stuff until you take action.  Once the action is taken it is supposed to be repeated constantly.  Once the process has been repeated constantly for a period of time it will become a habit.  Once a habit has been with you long enough it transition from a habit to a part of who you are.  It becomes a part of your lifestyle.  It is a part of who you are.  That is the goal.

Lets start by looking at the process briefly outlined in this passage:

FIRST, we continue to watch for negative and destructive thoughts or actions.  If you are at Step 10 and working your steps as outlined in the Alcoholics Anonymous book, you probably have a good idea what destructive thoughts and actions are most destructive to your life and those around you.  The authors also included four that are often common to us working through recovery:

  1. Selfishness
  2. Dishonesty
  3. Resentment
  4. Fear

Even if you have your own personalized list, these four should be included.  We will call these “The Watch Four.”  These are the things that you are supposed to be on watch for at all times.  These (along with whatever other items you may list) are indicators that you are about to unleash crazy in your world or that you have already been unleashing crazy in your world.  If you are watching for these and see that one has begun arising in you, you are in deep trouble.  That is why it is imperative that you keep watch.

NEXT, you have to know what to do if you are watching and one of these crops up.  Before you respond or act in any way or even give all of this too much thought, STOP!  Ask God to remove the destructive thought, attitude or behavior on my part.  It does not matter who else is involved or what is going on, first I must stop my own crazy train.

AFTER ASKING GOD call, visit or somehow discuss whatever you have going on with someone helpful.  That means someone who is at wise enough to use common sense, far enough in recovery or in life not to give you stupid advice and strong enough to tell you the truth (even if it will make you angry). 

Too many people look for advice from people they already know will agree with whatever stupidity they are thinking or who won’t say anything they don’t want to hear.  It is helpful if you can find a few that have been through this process properly and understand.

The point is to test your thinking and get an outsider’s perspective and guidance.  For that to happen you need to be actively looking for these people and discussing this with them before something happens.  Then, when something like this comes up, these people will be expecting your call or visit and will know exactly what you are expecting.  (maybe you can prepare them by showing this to them)

AFTER TALKING TO SOMEONE, you need to take action to change.  If there was another person involved, you probably owe him, her or them an amends.  If this is the case do not put it off, do all you can to repair the situation as soon as possible.  Try to do anything you can as fast as you can to undo your part of whatever happened.

ONCE YOU HAVE MADE AMENDS focus on intensively working with someone else who is struggling with addictions, alcoholism or whatever you are struggling with.  This is the best way to deal with this sort of struggle (along with the other parts of the process).

PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Not only is working with others part of getting immunity from destructive thoughts or actions, working with others is part of ensuring immunity from relapse. 

This is the way we are to deal with the negatives and destructive things that enter into our lives.  I did skip one point from the passage on page 84 until now.  It is four very important words: 

When these crop up…  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 84)

We are not discussing something that might happen, we are talking about things that will be trying to creep back into your life at every turn.  At first all of this may seem tedious or annoying.  After you do all of this long enough it will just become normal and seem less and less of a tedious effort and eventually just become the way you think. 

The point is to stop letting ridiculously foolish things from pouring out of your life or to stop holding in ridiculously foolish thoughts and feelings and deal with these things.  This is all a huge part of learning love and tolerance and these things are the code of all things Twelve Step.

Learning to live like this is change and change is what recovery is all about.  Like I always say:

IF YOU ARE NOT CHANGED YOU ARE THE SAME AND YOU CAN EXPECT THE SAME RESULTS!

Wade H.

Active Leadership and Your Recovery

It may seem incredible that these men are to become happy, respected, and useful once more. How can they rise out of such misery, bad repute and hopelessness? The practical answer is that since these things have happened among us, they can happen with you. Should you wish them above all else, and be willing to make use of our experience, we are sure they will come. The age of miracles is still with us. Our own recovery proves that!
Our hope is that when this chip of a book is launched on the world tide of alcoholism, defeated drinkers will seize upon it, to follow its suggestions.  Many, we are sure, will rise to their feet and march on. They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 153)

A HUGE part of the process of recovery is the approaching sill other addicts and alcoholics.  But, then there is the statement “fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet, havens for those who must find a way out.”  I would like to explore that a bit more on this post.

After the book appeared we all became very busy in our efforts to save all and sundry, but I was still actually on the fringes of A.A. While I went along with all that was done and attended the meetings, I never took an active job of leadership until February 1940.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pgs 229-230)

Here is a big challenge many have in recovery.  There are many who are convinced that recovery comes from simply being in the right place and trying to stay away from non-recovery people and things.  Don’t get me wrong, this is a great place to start, but in actuality it is a very small step on a very long journey.

In a previous post named “Intensive Work…Making Coffee???” I spoke on the importance of working with others.  Here, in the story of one of the pioneers and founding members of Alcoholics Anonymous (the start of all things Twelve Step) there is something described as an “active job of leadership” that was apparently very important to the early membership.  Apparently, it was possible to take “jobs of leadership” with the people that were already working together in recovery and also in places where there were not yet groups (“They will approach still other sick ones and fellowships of Alcoholics Anonymous may spring up in each city and hamlet”)

Let’s take a second to look at how all of this was tied to recovery of the founding member who I just quoted:

…I never took an active job of leadership until February 1940. Then I got a very good position in Philadelphia and quickly found I would need a few fellow alcoholics around me if I was to stay sober. Thus I found myself in the middle of a brand new group. When I started to tell the boys how we did it in New York and all about the spiritual part of the program, I found they would not believe me unless I was practicing what I preached. Then I found that as I gave in to this spiritual or personality change I was getting a little more serenity. In telling newcomers how to change their lives and attitudes, all of a sudden I found I was doing a little changing myself. I had been too self-sufficient to write a moral inventory, but I discovered in pointing out to the new man his wrong attitudes and actions that I was really taking my own inventory, and that if I expected him to change I would have to work on myself too. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg 230)

This person found himself in a place where he could not get the support he needed in recovery that we call fellowship.  For some of us this may be because of proximity like this man who moved to Philadelphia where there were not yet any groups of this nature.  But, for some of us we may be in a place where there are plenty of recovery groups for whatever we are in recovery for,
the problem may be that the groups in your area may not be organized in a way that you can get what you need from them (before I go any further I feel it is important to note that there is a chance in this situation that you may just be resistant and trying to find an excuse not to participate as another option).  If there are no groups or no groups that seem to give you what you need in recovery you may find that as you work with others, they will need something they cannot find nearby also.

In the case of the man we were just reading about, he knew he desperately needed something that was not available.  Here is the concept:  If you can’t find it make it!  

This person was on the fringes (a member but not really an active participant in A.A.), who had not truly done the Steps (“I had been too self-sufficient to write a moral inventory”) and who knew the details of the information yet did not do the things he knew (practicing what I preached).  He was just hanging around a group talking recovery stuff. 

When he started working with others and started his new recovery group, just hanging around talking recovery backfired.  The people he was working with immediately realized that he was asking them to do something he wasn’t doing himself.  The newcomers he had started in the recovery process were able to do something that the rest of the founding membership of Alcoholics Anonymous could not accomplish:  They somehow managed to get him to start working the steps fully.

As an example, he states that he “had been too self-sufficient to write a moral inventory” in modern Twelve Step terms he is saying bluntly that he had not worked Steps Four and Eight because he didn’t feel he needed to.  Without Steps Four and Eight the whole Twelve Step process stops at three (which if you read the whole story is where he was stuck: working Step 3). 

It was not until he started working with others that the clarity of where he was in his own recovery became clear.  The fact that he describes himself on page 230 as “on the fringes” let’s you know that the others probably had a pretty good idea as to where he was at in working his recovery in spite of the fact he attended meetings and talked recovery language.  Even the newcomers he was starting with knew where he was really at in his recovery.  Everyone but him knew. Suddenly, when working with others it became clear.

This may run contrary to many people’s ideas as to how sponsorship works, but everyone knew he was on shaky ground and had done very little toward recovery.  Everyone knew he was “self-sufficient” which means he really didn’t even buy Step One and would have seemed like the most unlikely person to lead anyone to recovery.  The truth is, not only is he one of the founding members of Alcoholics
Anonymous in Pennsylvania, but he could not even grasp recovery until he started working with others.

There are two huge points I want to want to convey through this founding member’s story:

  1. We all need to be working with others in recovery (even if just assisting another who is more advanced to work with somebody else)
  2. If you do not have a fellowship that is actually growing you in the process of recovery, you either need to find one or start one.

No matter what you took out of this post, I again return to one basic idea:

Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail. (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Intensive Work…Making Coffee???

 Practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with other alcoholics. It works when other activities fail.  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

I was speaking to some folks about working with others in recovery recently and had a whole group of people copout at once.  It was the scariest thing I have seen in a while.  They said things like “I’ll just serve coffee” or “why do I have to do that” or even “I’ll never do that” and things like this. 

The scary part was that this was not a group of people new to recovery.  Some of the group had been through recovery several times.  I was reacquainted with something I had forgotten:  The little things that were originally put in place to help a person get a little taste of what it might look like and to assist in the growth of the “humility” spoken of as being “foundation principle of each” of the Twelve Steps (Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions pg. 70) have somehow become a replacement for “intensive work”.  In other cases, the idea of work with others was just written off and was replaced with checkboxes.

By checkboxes I mean that it is as if people are convinced that if I can say I did each Step (even if not done correctly) somehow I will magically remain sober.  Saying you did the Steps and doing a “minimum to get by” effort at working the Steps is far different than really working the Steps.

Later in the same paragraph, in describing what the focal point of Step Twelve is and in describing what the whole chapter is about to teach us how to do it says:

This is our twelfth suggestion: Carry this message to other alcoholics!  (Alcoholics Anonymous pg. 89)

Your addiction might be drugs, overeating, gambling or whatever, but the Twelfth Step has a major focal point that way too many people miss:  “Carry the message” and “Intensive work”!  Here is another key part that is often missed:  “It works when other activities fail.”

How much more direct are we expecting them to be:  “nothing will so much insure immunity”.  I’m not saying don’t serve coffee or chair meetings, but I am saying that that does not fit what is stated in this one paragraph. 

Here is my point to all of this:  If you are not Intensively working with others, you did not get out of your Twelve Step program what you were supposed to.  This is the focus point of your Step Twelve because the authors of the Twelve Steps felt that when all of the other stuff you do or have learned fails you, this is the only thing that will work to keep your sobriety.

This is the weapon to end all weapons, the greatest tool that they offered you in recovery and most ignore it and some do something kinda similar, but few even have any inkling to do this.

Let me help you with clarity:  THIS IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE TO DO IF YOU WANT TO GET SOBRIETY OUT OF THE TWELVE STEPS.  This is one of the keys to twelve Step culture and it is impossible to have worked the Twelve Steps if you skip the most important part of the Twelfth one.

Please Twelve Steppers, go out and find someone to work intensively with.  If that person doesn’t make it find another and another.  If you do not know how to “intensively work” with others, look around until you find that rare Twelve Step “diamond in the rough” and have that person teach you how to “intensively work” with others (and possibly have that person take you on as a sponsee). 

So go chair your meetings, make the coffee, and so on, but more importantly, INTENSIVELY WORK WITH OTHERS!

Wade H.